Suicide comedy, zombie Jughead & epic gamers: What I’m reading

Authors are always reading. I mean… when they’re not writing, of course. Authors gotta write.

Personally, I like to write short book reviews on Goodreads (follow me!). Here’s a selection of some of my favorite recent books.

A Long Way DownA Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nick Hornby writes like people talk and his books are about ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives. A Long Way Down presents one his most dramatic premises — four people intending to commit suicide run into each other on the top of the same building.

Hornby takes a unique approach of alternating perspectives every chapter. The effect is not unlike a documentary, in which interviews with several people are woven together to create a single forward narrative.

Because of the three act structure, large amounts of dialogue and relatively static set pieces, I could really imagine this acted out on the stage. In that way, it felt a little less “novel-y” than other novels, but if that kind of thing doesn’t bug you, then full speed ahead.

I should add that this is a funny book. Yeah, okay, it’s about suicide. But it’s great fun watching the characters’ personalities clash. In many ways they don’t like each other, but at the same time they realize they need each others’ help to keep going.

I really got to liking each of the characters, too, even though they’d done things (and continue to do things) that are not completely likable. And really, it’s a testament to Hornby’s talent that he can pull off a comedy about wanting to kill yourself so effortlessly.


Afterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from RiverdaleAfterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Who knew adding zombies to Archie would make it so good?!

I never really got into Archie Comics, but this fresh spin goes all in on the horror while preserving the characters everyone knows (yes, Archie is still waffling between Betty and Veronica).

I can’t say enough about the artwork by Francesco Francavilla — who is known for his horror stuff and not your typical Archie artist — so I won’t try.

So yeah, Afterlife with Archie is a total blast. Read it now!


Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ready Player One is the geekiest book I have ever read. That’s a compliment. Gamers, sci-fi and fantasy lovers — this is your book.

Even if you don’t understand all the references, you’ll understand some of them and get a big grin on your face. Meanwhile, the fun narrative — mixing action, comedy and romance — will keep you reading every day until Game Over.

If I have to nitpick, I’d say there’s sometimes a bit too much explanation about how the world functions, both in the virtual OASIS and the dystopian near-future real world. The hero Parzival often pauses to explain the rules when probably the reader could figure these things out along the way.

In the end though, I think your enjoyment of this book ultimately comes down to whether you like fun. Do you like fun? Yes? Well, then…

Ready Player One!

Check out all my book reviews!

Free eBook: Get dystopian novel We, The Watched on NoiseTrade

Propaganda from the author!

Propaganda from the author!

Exciting news! My first novel We, The Watched is now available to download for free on NoiseTrade! All you have to do is provide an email address and you can instantly download the eBook (MOBI and EPUB versions available).

If you like what you read, NoiseTrade provides the ability to donate. However, as a self-published author, I’d be even happier if you left an honest review of the book on Amazon, Goodreads or another bookstore website.

So what’s it about?

An amnesiac struggles to conform in a surveillance society he doesn’t remember. Resistance is heresy and punishable by death. But some seek to ignite a revolution. Will the fresh perspective from Seven’s rebirth be a blessing or a curse?

For readers who prefer print, you can still buy the paperback edition of We, The Watched on Amazon for just $8.99.

What are you waiting for? Download it for free right now! Thanks and happy reading!

–Adam Bender

How to find readers and get book reviews with Story Cartel

As an independent author, I’m always looking for new ways to promote my books. I recently came across a cool website called Story Cartel. The site is all about finding new readers–and importantly–encouraging them to write reviews on Amazon and other bookseller websites.

I’ve put both of my novels up on Story Cartel in the past few months. Essentially, the book goes up on the site and for three weeks visitors can download it for free in exchange for their email address. At the end of that period, the reader writes a customer review and submits a link to Story Cartel. When they submit the link, they are entered into a contest to win great prizes like an Amazon gift card.

The review itself does not have to be positive–Story Cartel stresses to readers that they should write honest reviews.

I asked Story Cartel founder Joe Bunting about the origins of the site and his thoughts on how authors can best succeed in a time of immense change in the publishing world. Check out his answers below and please leave your own comments.

What was the problem you were trying to solve when you created Story Cartel?

Story Cartel founder Joe Bunting

Joe: Out of the millions of books on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and all the rest, how do readers figure out which ones they actually want to read? First, they’ll ask their friends, but if their friends aren’t readers or have different taste in books, they turn to reviews.

Not professional reviews in the New York Times or Vanity Fair. Regular readers are much more interested in finding books other people like them are interested in reading.

That’s why getting reviews on their books are the first and most important thing authors can do today to market their books.

We had figured out how to get a lot of reviews on our own books, and so we built Story Cartel to help other authors get reviews on theirs. It’s working out pretty well. Since 2012, we’ve helped authors get over 15,000 reviews on their books. We’re pretty excited about that.

Why do authors need a site like Story Cartel?

Joe: Reviews, especially Amazon reviews, do three things:

  1. Reviews provide social proof. You’re much more likely to buy a book with 100 reviews than one with 3 reviews, even if the 100 reviews are lower than the book with just 3. We all like to read books other people are reading.
  2. Reviews build word of mouth buzz. And word of mouth buzz is what sells books the best.
  3. Reviews work on Amazon’s algorithm. While Amazon is always changing its algorithm, we’ve found that books with more reviews rank higher on Amazon than books with fewer reviews.

How long have you been running, where are you based, and how big is the team?

Joe: We’ve been helping authors since 2012, when we started by launching just one book a week (now we launch over 20 a week, on average). We’re based in Atlanta, Georgia (but we often travel to Santa Barbara, California to escape the heat!), and have a small, busy team of four people.

The publishing industry is in a state of flux right now. Where do you think it’s going, and how well will self-published authors fare against industry published authors?

Joe: From our perspective, publishing has always been about relationship and conversations. Now the conversation is just faster and less centralized.

Publishers in the last model were heavily reliant on book reviewers in magazines and newspapers to generate buzz for their books.

So what do you do when the magazines and newspapers are closing their book review departments and yet the average reader has more of a voice than ever?

We’re doing the same thing publicists have been doing for decades–getting books into the hands of people with influence. The difference is that now everyone has influence!

How can self-published authors match the marketing budgets of the big publishers?

Joe: Honestly, they don’t need to. They just need to make relationships with one reader at a time, one life-long fan at a time. If you have 1,000 fans who are willing to tell all their friends each time you publish a new book, that’s a career. What else do you need?

Here’s how We, The Watched looked on Story Cartel. During the giveaway period, the “Buy on Amazon” button said “Download.”

Besides Story Cartel, are there any other innovative companies in this space you like that are helping self-published authors?

Joe: Story Cartel fits really well with Bookbub, the eBook promotion service that’s helping so many authors sell books online. They require at least 25 reviews before they’ll host your book, so Story Cartel is a good first step before using them.

I like what NoiseTrade books is doing to help authors build relationships with readers by giving away free copies of their books.

There are lots of other great services, but I think it matters less which tools you use and more that you’re developing relationships with your readers online using whatever tools are at your disposal (e.g. email, Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc).

What are the next steps for Story Cartel? Do you have any plans to expand or improve your services, for example?

Joe: We’re writers ourselves, so I think we’ll always be creating new things to help them. Our sister site, The Write Practice, is all about helping people practice the craft of writing, and we’re in the process of building a publicity agency to help handcraft custom online publicity campaigns, especially for publishers. We just want to help writers, in whatever way we can, and it’s a huge honor to get to do that every day.

Missed the giveaway of my dystopian novel We, The Watched? For a limited time get the book for just $1 at Smashwords with the coupon code JQ73E. Or get it free on NoiseTrade! And please, leave a review!

Black Friday deal: free dystopian novel Divided We Fall by Adam Bender

Sorry folks, this deal is over! However, you can still get a free copy of Divided We Fall by joining my newsletterThe Underground.

Propaganda by the author

Black Friday is all about great deals, so in that spirit I’m giving away my dystopian novel Divided We Fall on Story Cartel!

That’s right, you can get the eBook version of this dystopian love story about surveillance right here without spending a single [insert your favorite unit of currency here]! And Divided We Fall will continue to be free for the next three weeks!

All I ask in return is that you write an honest review of the novel on Amazon, Goodreads, your blog or any other place you see fit. You can submit the review to Story Cartel for Amazon gift cards and other great prizes.

As an indie author, I have a smaller marketing budget and word of mouth is very important. One of the best ways to convince readers to give my books a try is to show them reviews by other readers like them. I’m not just talking about super-glowing reviews (though these are nice). I’m talking about honest, objective customer reviews that clearly lay out the good and bad elements of a given novel.

Divided We Fall by Adam Bender

What are you waiting for? Get this book for free on Story Cartel!

If you have already read Divided We Fall, I’d of course still love to hear what you think. Please leave a review on the website of the store you bought it, as well as Goodreads if you are a member. Please also spread the word about this giveaway to your friends.

As an indie author trying to expand his audience, I really appreciate all your help!

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Writing update

It’s been a big year with the release of my second novel, Divided We Fall. But as they say in journalism, you’re only as good as your next story! So here’s a quick update on my current projects.

Short story

"Fire Eyes" is an upcoming short story by Adam Bender. Art by Belinda Pepper.

“Fire Eyes” is an upcoming short story by Adam Bender. Art by Belinda Pepper.

I’ve just finished a new short story called “Fire Eyes,” set in the same world as my novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall.

Taking place before the events of either of those stories, “Fire Eyes” follows an underground street artist called Ignatius who for years has dodged surveillance cameras to spray paint a dissident symbol: a dark visage with fiery eyes. Dissatisfied with the impact of his work, Iggy sets his sights on tagging the most important government building in the nation.

I have just submitted this story to a sci-fi short story magazine. I’m hoping to show it to you one way or the other by early next year.


I began work a while back on a screenplay of We, The Watched. It’s about two-thirds finished and looking pretty solid, but I have to admit it’s taken the back burner to my other projects. I hope to get back to work on this in the near future with a view to finishing it next year.

New novel

This is where I’ve been spending the bulk of my time. My next novel is a completely new and original story, unrelated to any of my past work. It mixes elements of several genres, including western, adventure and speculative fiction. Like my previous novels, there is a political twist. Whereas the We, The Watched stories focus on government surveillance, my new novel takes on gun issues in America.

The working title is: The Wanderer and the New West

I hope to have more updates for you soon!